BY ELLIOT SPAGAT
VISTA, Calif. — A heavy metal singer gave an envelope containing $1,000 in cash to an undercover agent and provided instructions on how to kill his estranged wife, including her photograph, address, security gate code and dates he would be with their children to give him an alibi, a prosecutor said Thursday.
The disclosure came moments after Tim Lambesis, 32, front man for the Christian-inspired group As I Lay Dying, pleaded not guilty to solicitation of murder. A judge set bail at $3 million and said if he is released, he must wear a GPS monitoring device and face strict travel restrictions.
During a May 7 meeting with the agent who went by the alias "Red," Lambesis was recorded saying he wanted his wife killed, said Claudia Grasso, a San Diego County deputy district attorney.
The undercover operation was staged after the singer told a man at his gym on April 23 and again the next day that he wanted his wife killed, complaining that she was making it difficult for him to see their children and impossible to complete their divorce, the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney Anthony Salerno told reporters that Lambesis did not intend to harm anybody and was apparently set up by the man at the gym.
"Law enforcement was being fed something by someone that I strongly believe was a snitch, was out to save his own skin and was trumping things up, exaggerating things," Salerno said.
The lawyer declined to address specific allegations.
Lambesis was arrested Tuesday at a store in Oceanside, north of San Diego. If convicted, he faces up to nine years in prison.
In court, Lambesis stared straight ahead from behind a glass partition in a courtroom packed with his supporters. Salerno said they included his parents, Little League coach and some band members.
The prosecutor said the singer emailed his wife while on tour in August that he didn't love her, he wanted to end the relationship, and he no longer believed in God. Meggan Lambesis later learned her husband was having an affair and had been involved with "a string of women."
Grasso asked Superior Court Judge Martin Staven to set bail at $20 million, saying Meggan Lambesis was terrified and living "in seclusion" with their three children.
"He is substantially motivated to kill his wife," she said.
Bail conditions prohibit Lambesis from contacting his wife or children. He cannot leave the San Diego area except to see his attorney in Los Angeles.
Salerno said he expected Lambesis to make bail, but prospects for a 30-city U.S. tour that begins May 30 in Oklahoma City appeared uncertain. The attorney said he would ask the judge for permission to travel if the band wants to go ahead with the concerts.
Meggan Lambesis said in a divorce filing last fall that her husband had been falling asleep while caring for their three children near a pool and was spending endless hours at a gym and thousands of dollars on tattoos. She also said Lambesis toured six months a year and had taken two last-minute trips in a month to see a girlfriend in Florida.
The couple adopted the children — ages 4, 8 and 10 — from Ethiopia, and Tim Lambesis continued to see them for about 10 hours a week when he was not on tour, even though the couple was no longer living together, according to the divorce filing.
As I Lay Dying formed in San Diego in 2000 and has released six albums, including 2007's "An Ocean Between Us," which reached No. 8 on Billboard's charts. A single from the album, "Nothing Left," was nominated for a Grammy for top metal performance.
The band plays in an aggressive style that features metal guitar riffs at the furious pace of hardcore punk.
Associated Press writer Julie Watson in San Diego contributed to this report.